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Ed’s Giants mock draft: 7 rounds the way I would handle the draft

Moving around the board leads to some unexpected, and maybe unlikely, selections

Alabama v LSU
Brian Branch
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

I have been doing these weekly New York Giants mock drafts since the end of January, trying to paint different scenarios each week and give Big Blue View readers the opportunity to discuss different players and ways the real 2023 NFL Draft could turn out.

We are less than two weeks away from the draft now, and there will be only one more Sunday mock draft after this one.

What I have tried to do here is orchestrate a complete 7-round mock draft making the moves and choices I would make if I was in general manager Joe Schoen’s shoes. This is not a ‘what I expect the Giants to do’ mock.

Round 1 (No. 25) — TRADE!!!

I looked at the board here and decided to move down six spots with the Kansas City Chiefs. There are a number of interesting players here. Safety Brian Branch, guard O’Cyrus Torrence, cornerbacks Emmanuel Forbes and Cam Smith, centers John Michael Schmitz and Joe Tippmann, wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, edge Will McDonald IV, linebackers Drew Sanders and Jack Campbell.

If I sat right here and made this pick I would likely pass on the centers and choose between Branch, who I think is a fantastic fit for the Giants, and Forbes, who might be a guy who could match up with DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb and Terry McLaurin. With what I’m staring at on the board, I’m very comfortable moving down a few spots.

I also got the Chiefs’ third-round pick (No. 95 overall), and I think that is a pretty realistic value should the Chiefs want to move up.

Round 1 (No. 31) — Brian Branch, S, Alabama

We talk a lot about cornerback, wide receiver, center, defensive line and even edge defender for the Giants in Round 1. I LOVE the fit of Branch in the Giants’ defense after the loss of Julian Love in free agency.

Branch is listed as a safety, but he is really a versatile defensive back who Wink Martindale could utilize in a variety of ways.

Sports Info Solutions has Branch as its No. 12 overall prospect. SIS says:

Branch is a starting free safety who should spend most of his time playing in the slot. He has exceptional coverage skills, awareness, and physicality.

In three seasons at Alabama, Branch played the majority of his snaps in the slot. In 2022, the split was 73% slot, 13% box, per SIS. Here are his 2022 Pro Football Focus grades by alignment:

Players passed on: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State; John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota; Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin; Will McDonald, Edge, Iowa State; Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina; Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

Round 2 (No. 37) — Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin

Yes, at No. 37.

I gave up pick No. 89 in Round 3 and pick No. 160 in Round 5 to move up 20 spots and have my choice of centers. The simulator approved my trade and must have loved it, because I immediately got six (yes, six!!) offers to move down.

One of the reasons I traded down in Round 1 was the hope that I would be able to pull off a move like this in Round 2. I still have pick No. 95 in Round 3, the one that I just obtained from the Chiefs. So, I don’t feel like a lost much there. I also still have pick No. 172 in Round 5, so again I am still in play in that area of the draft. In the end, I started with 10 selections and still have 10 selections.

Why Tippmann over John Michael Schmitz?

Well, this is where it gets interesting. And where I will admit that I might be riding the wrong horse.

In our recent mock draft tracker, nine of the 10 analysts who selected a center chose Schmitz over Tippmann. Well-connected NFL insider Tony Pauline believes the Giants are ‘locked onto’ Schmitz.

BBV’s Nick Falato thinks I erred with this pick. Here is what he messaged me after getting a sneak peek at this week’s mock:

“I like JMS better than Tippmann … There’s really no issue with JMS, imo … Tippmann is a better overall athlete w/more range, I would say…but he has a lot more technical issues (strike timing, leverage, ability to sustain and steer) … I like both, I think JMS is the better player, though.”

I just like the movement skills and upside with Tippmann. Of course, maybe the Giants shouldn’t listen to me. The last time I recommended a big upside swing over a safe play I mocked Mekhi Becton to the Giants and bypassed BOTH Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs. So, yeah, maybe I need to stick to writing.

In all, I think the point here is that I was able to manipulate the board and land the top safety in the class while still getting my choice of centers. That would be a nice spot for the Giants to wind up in. And, I really don’t feel I bankrupted my draft capital to get to that spot.

Players passed on: John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota; Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State; Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas; Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa; Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson; Cody Mauch, IOL, North Dakota State

Round 3 (No. 92) — Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State

Yep, I moved up again. Would have loved to have kept my sixth-round pick (No. 209), but sent it to the Cincinnati Bengals to move up three spots and get the player I wanted.

The top three off-ball linebackers are long gone. I would have been happy sitting at No. 95 and choosing someone like Jayden Reed, Tyler Scott or Darius Rush. I looked at Henley, though, and I felt like he was the last potential impact off-ball linebacker available. He is slight, but his speed and coverage ability could be a huge asset to the Giants’ defense.

SIS says:

Henley has only been playing linebacker for a few years, but he is a fast, athletic, and versatile defender who has the coverage ability to be an effective starter at the next level.

Players passed on: Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma, Tank Dell, WR, Houston, Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati; Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane; Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina; Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State; Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU

Round 4 (No. 128) — Khy Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford

I had a tough time making up my mind on this pick. I probably could have justified picking just about every player on the ‘players passed on’ list below.

In the end, what the former NFL scouts who do reports for the 33rd Team had to say about Kelly made me decide to roll the dice with him here. 33rd Team wrote:

Kelly has good size and length for the cornerback position. He has primarily been an outside corner during his career but he did play a significant number of snaps in the slot in 2021. He gets under the opponent’s chin when he is in press coverage and is very good with his pad level, hand strike and balance in press. He is disciplined with his eyes; locked on the torso of the receiver as he stays in phase vertically. He is as consistent and sound with his press technique as any corner in this year’s class.

Kelly is a bit of a long-strider who lacks the sudden change-of-direction and fluid hips you hope for with an NFL corner. He has to be very good technically because his feet, hips and speed are just average. His sluggish hips are exposed whenever he has to adjust to complex routes. He has just average play strength and is not a violent or aggressive tackler, but he will come to balance and wrap up. He does not have easy speed, and he will lose balance trying to track vertically.

Kelly has good eyes and instincts in zone coverage, but he lacks the quick-click close that you are looking for. He doesn’t offer a lot of versatility; lacking the short-area quickness and physicality that is required to play in the slot. He has length but doesn’t have elite athleticism. However, he has one thing he can hang his hat on and that is his press-man ability. Teams that covet that ability may have him much higher on their boards.

To me, that seems like a cornerback Wink Martindale might be able to work with.

Players passed on: Riley Moss, CB, Iowa; Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas; Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford; Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse; Chandler Zavala, IOL, NC State; Moro Ojomo, DT, Texas; Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue

Round 5 (No. 175) — Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia

On the move again. I figured I was out of moves in this draft, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came calling with an offer to move down three spots from No. 172 to No. 175 and add a sixth-round pick (No. 196). That quite nicely replaces the sixth-round pick (No. 209) I gave up to move up and get linebacker Darian Henley in Round 3. It actually moves me up 13 spots in that round from where I started the draft, so I’m good.

Full disclosure. The trade down did cost me an opportunity to draft Texas defensive lineman Moro Ojomo, which I probably would have done at 172 and the Bucs actually did, but I’m not crying about it. I am perfectly happy with the combination of my next two picks.

Ford-Wheaton is a pure height/weight/speed swing for the fences — the kind of thing you do on Day 3 of the draft.

Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio believes Ford-Wheaton’s upside is comparable to Allen Robinson, who has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons and 528 career receptions over nine seasons.

Waldman writes:

Ford-Wheaton is an explosive athlete, but it only shows up sporadically on the field because his technical skills need more refinement and/or consistency.

In his draft guide, Dane Brugler writes:

Ford-Wheaton must develop better confidence in his hands and routes to matchup in the NFL, but he is a rare height/length/speed athlete with potential to be a ball winner. He is a high-level developmental NFL prospect.

Players passed on: Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue; Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati; Dontayvion Wicks, WR, Virginia; Andrew Vorhees, IOL, USC

Round 6 (No. 196) — Viliami Fehoko, Edge, San Jose State

The Giants need more depth at the edge. With Kayvon Thibodeaux having been drafted in Round 1 a year ago and Azeez Ojulari in Round 2 in 2021 I had a hard time justifying using a Round 1 resource on someone like Will McDonald IV, who was available when I moved down to No. 31.

Finally, here in Round 6 with the pick I got from the Buccaneers in my Round 5 trade, value meets need.

Brugler says:

Fehoko is missing the top-tier athleticism and length most desire on the edge, but he will appeal to defensive coordinators because of his energetic play style and refined handwork. He projects as a backup and rotational base end in the NFL.

SIS says:

Fehoko is a versatile edge with a diverse repertoire who can play anywhere on the defensive line, but he lacks the top-end qualities to be an every-down starter at the next level.

Players passed on: Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame; Mo Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota; Jake Haener, QB Fresno State; Tre Tucker, WR, Cincinnati

Round 7 (No. 240) — Jerrod Clark, DL, Coastal Carolina

One of the Big Blue View Rules for Draft Success is ‘When in doubt, draft a lineman.’ I follow that rule here, and go big. Really big.

Clark is a 6-foot-3½, 334-pound nose tackle. If he pans out, he gives the Giants two things they are looking for. Help against the run, and a player who can help take some of the load off Dexter Lawrence.

33rd Team says Clark has starter potential:

Clark is a big-bodied player who can be a gap 3-4 head-up nose tackle. He has solid movement skills for a guy his size. He is more a space-eater than a guy who is going to make an impact upfield. He gets pushed off the ball a little too often for a guy his size. He wants to slip blocks and that’s not his game, he is a better player when he engages and occupies the hole. Clark dips his head too much and needs to play with better vision. There is talent there but needs to play with more consistency and he will get multiple opportunities due to size.

Round 7 (No. 243) — Grant DuBose, WR, Charlotte

A little bit like the selection of Ford-Wheaton, this is a Day 3 flier on an intriguing player who might have some untapped upside. It is also a nod to Waldman, who believes the 6-2, 201-pound Dubose is one of the more underrated receivers in the draft.

Here is Waldman’s elevator pitch for DuBose:

DuBose is a possession receiver who can earn separation downfield and make plays in the open field. He’s a reliable pass catcher who can make acrobatic grabs and tracks the ball well with his back to the quarterback. It would be more apt to describe him as an all-around talent who is good at everything but not elite at anything beyond his change of direction quickness.

DuBose has a repertoire of release moves to build on that include combinations with his hands and feet. He has to cultivate that patience and suddenness to best manipulate defenders.

Like his releases, DuBose can deliver competent breaks, but he has to apply his techniques in all the zones where they come into play. He’s better breaking with short routes than intermediate routes. The upside is that he accelerates into breaks, which a lot of young receivers don’t do well.

The best thing DuBose does is catch the ball. He rarely has lapses and when he does, it’s a minor clap-attack. Relative to his peers, he’s one of the most consistent performers in this facet of his position.

DuBose is a good runner, who avoids contact and layers moves with tight and quick execution. He finishes well enough to work around, under, or, sometimes, through opponents.

Like most of his game, he’s a good blocker who should get better. With this as the overall theme of DuBose’s prospects, expect him to develop into a first-off-the-bench contributor in a passing game or as one of the top 3-4 options in a passing offense. In a good scheme with strong talent, it could lead to top-24 statistical production.

Round 7 (No. 254) — Jon Gaines II, IOL, UCLA

Once again, I am defaulting to the ‘when in doubt draft a lineman’ rule. This pick is a nod to BBV’s Nick Falato, who has Gaines on his list of 10 players he likes more than most draft analysts. Nick writes:

Jon Gaines II is a very good run blocker who ideally fits in a zone-blocking scheme due to his overall body control and athletic ability while moving. Gaines II combines quick feet and excellent change of direction skills with agility and impressive mental processing to understand how to eliminate threats and maximize offensive success on any given play.

His elite combine will help him rise up draft boards, but he’s a better run blocker than a pass protector. Most of his issues in pass protection are correctable (punches and lunges, pops out of stance/high pad level, handling of counter moves, erratic initial punch, etc.). His baseline athletic traits and intelligence make it plausible that he could be a developmental player with the upside to start in the right scheme.

He’s not a bruiser, but not many offensive linemen can move like Gaines II, which - in terms of movement ability - reminds me a bit of Josh Ezeudu from last year’s draft, albeit Gaines II tested better than Ezeudu. Gaines II could be looking at a selection similar to Ezeudu, and he’ll be an ideal fit for a zone-oriented blocking scheme.

That works for me at pick No. 254.

How did I do, Giants fans?